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Handicap Betting in Football – Guide for 2023

Don’t understand handicap betting? Do you want to learn about it? This article will detail everything you need to know about handicap betting is, including;

  • Popular handicap betting markets
  • Asian Handicap betting
  • How a single handicap works
  • Frequently asked questions (FAQs) on handicap betting

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What is handicap betting and how does it work?

Essentially, handicap betting provides more competitive odds and levels the playing field. Instead of just providing conventional odds, like win, draw, or lose, the betting sites will provide a range of odds. Handicap betting is an alternate way to bet on events, and gives a virtual deficit (which is the handicap) and the team has to overcome the deficit. This form of betting is commonly employed when there is a significant disparity between two teams.

In short, let’s delve into the Champions League final between Manchester City and Inter Milan. City have low odds of winning the game at 4/9, while Milan’s odds are at 11/2. These odds – especially City’s – aren’t appealing to bettors, so a handicap means that City would have to beat Inter by two goals or more at -1, and suddenly the odds look intriguing. If Inter only loses by one goal, the Inter at +1 selection wins.

It doesn’t just have to be a single match, either. Bookmakers offer season handicap betting, which is prior to the start of the season. Each team is assigned a handicap based on the likelihood of winning the league. The team who is judged to be the favourite to win the league starts with a handicap of 0 (also known as Scratch). The weaker the team, the higher handicap they are given. For example, Manchester City had a handicap of 0 in the Premier League, while Newcastle were +31. Their handicap score is added onto their points total at the end of the season, and then the team with the most points is the winner of the market. Brentford had a handicap of +46 and finished with 59 points, so their total was 105. They won the market, closely followed by Arsenal (103), Newcastle (102) and Fulham (102).

TeamHandicapActual PointsTotal
Brentford+4659105
Arsenal+1984103
Newcastle+3171102

Popular handicap betting markets

Finding the betting market with the widest selection of handicaps available is key to being a successful bettor. Most of the popular online betting markets use the main handicap selections, and we’ll explain a very popular one: Asian Handicap.

Asian Handicap betting

Asian handicap betting simplifies the match by eliminating the draw and only using win or lose. It introduces fractional goals (for example 1.5), meaning that the handicap is a fractional goal. Favourites are given a minus handicap, while underdogs are assigned a plus handicap. To simplify it, if Ireland were assigned a +1.5 handicap, if they win, draw or lose by one goal, the bet wins.

The table below uses two other examples, Leeds United and Norwich City, with many different handicaps, up to +/- 2.

Team backedHandicapResultPayout
Leeds United-0.5WinWin
Draw or LoseLose
Norwich City+0.5Win or DrawWin
LoseLose
Leeds United-1Win by 2 or moreWin
Win by 1Bet void
Draw or LoseLose
Norwich City+1Win or DrawWin
Lose by 1Bet void
Lose by 2 or moreLose
Leeds United-1.5Win by 2 or moreWin
Win by 1, Lose or DrawLose
Norwich City+1.5Win, Draw or Lose by 1Win
Lose by 2 or moreLose
Leeds United-2Win by 3 or moreWin
Win by 2Bet void
Win by 1, Draw or LoseLose
Norwich City+2Win, Draw or Lose by 1Win
Lose by 2Bet void
Lose by 3 or moreLose

This is an example of single Asian Handicap betting, when there is a difference in respective ability between both teams that is perceived. What if there isn’t? Level Asian Handicap betting is used. Let’s explain.

The game is expected to be extremely tight. Not many goals in it. Take Bournemouth and Nottingham Forest as examples, two teams who finished within just one point of one another in the 2022-23 Premier League season. Level Asian Handicap would most likely be used in this scenario.

Team backedHandicapResultPayout
Bournemouth0WinWin
DrawBet void
LoseLose
Nottingham Forest0WinWin
DrawBet void
LoseLose

Level Asian Handicap is closer to the conventional win/draw/lose selections, instead the bet is void if the game ends at a draw.

Why use Asian Handicaps, then? Even if the team you backed loses, you can still win (or be voided, at least). This lowers the probability of your bet losing, and there are more winning outcomes on a handicap versus a regular 1×2 bet. Along with that, these are tailored for professional bettors, so the market offers better value and the margins are lower as the draw is removed, so the chance of sustained profit over time is increased.


FAQ on Handicap Betting

Now, let’s address some frequently asked questions (FAQs) regarding handicap betting:

What is the difference between handicap betting and spread betting?

Handicap and spread betting essentially refer to the same concept, with the only distinction lying in the terminology used. The choice of phrasing may vary based on the geographical region or market. But in Ireland it is mainly referred to as handicap, whereas the USA use spread.

How does a single handicap work?

In a single handicap, one team is granted a virtual advantage or disadvantage represented by a specific number of goals or points. The team with the handicap must overcome the deficit or the opponent’s lead to secure victory in the bet.

Can a handicap result in a draw?

No. However, if the handicap is a whole number – +1 as an example – if the team loses by a single goal, the stake will be returned as the bet is void.